On this date back in 1981 the Greg Kihn Band opened for Journey at the Alpine Valley Amphitheater in Wisconsin. It was the first of a two-night sold-out run. I remember those Journey gigs like they happened yesterday. I remember how cocky I used to be, walking around looking for trouble out on the road. My band took the entire rockstar business entirely too seriously. We made a point of partying our asses off whenever the opportunity presented itself (which, back in 1981 on tour with Journey was, like, every night!) We never let a good time pass us by. When I look back on the stuff we used to do it amazes me that we actually played all those gigs after staying up all night for days. We were young and seemingly bulletproof. It never bothered us. We could stay up for days, play every night until we dropped, go back to the hotel and do it all again. It was like this every night. You talk about temptation! Holy cow! Women threw themselves at us! I’m not kidding. There’s nothing like being a rock star with an actual hit record on the radio out on tour with a band like Journey. There’s nothing to compare it to. The best of everything in every city and it goes on for months at a time! It warps your mind after a while. Here’s an illustration of what I mean.
We used to sit around back stage and shoot baskets with the deli spread and a trashcan. I got pretty good at it. Throwing produce was my specialty. (It just shows you the stupid stuff you get into on the road.) I could drop ‘em in there every time. A strawberry from 20 feet- no problem. An apple from 30? Money in the bank. A ripe Kiwi Fruit from across the room? Automatic. The reason I’m telling you all this is to set up a story of how I got my comeuppance.
So, one night after a gig at the Meadowlands in New Jersey, we’re sitting around backstage with the Journey crew including Sandy Einstein, who handled their publicity. I was feeling a little cocky that night, I don’t remember why. I must have been high or drunk (or both) when I made the bet with Journey’s Road manager. I bet, in front of Sandy Einstein as a witness, that I could drop one shot from across the room- I think it was a pear, from about 25 feet away, into a big old 30-gallon plastic trash can. Not only that- but also I bet him that night’s pay for the GKB (around $15,000!) and I made it DOUBLE OR NOTHING! So, if I sank the shot, they would owe me a cool $30,000, and if I missed- that night’s show was for free. Somehow through the liberal application of cold beer and a lot of talk, I got them to agree to it. I think they wanted to see me fail.
Anyway, I’m about to the take the shot when Journey’s manager Herbie Herbert walks in. Herbie’s a big dude. He’d heard what I was doing and had come to put a stop to the foolishness. He grabbed my arm before I could take the shot. “What are you doing, man?” I told him. “You’re nuts,” he said. “No way am I letting this happen. I’m doing this for your own good, Greg.” I protested. He told me if I lost the bet, my band would hate me and they would mutiny and not be able to finish the tour. “So, you see, I have Journey’s best interests at heart- but I’m mostly doing it for you, man, to stop you from doing something so freakin’ stupid.”
I scoffed. “Surly you jest, sir! A harmless little wager, that’s all it is!”
Herbie told me in no uncertain terms that all bets were off. Then he challenged me to make the shot. “Let’s see what you got, tough guy!”
I took dead aim, flexed my wrist, and lofted a beautiful arcing shot across the room… AND MISSED! The room exploded in laughter. I was the butt of all jokes for weeks. I heard about it from everybody. What an idiot I almost was! My band would have killed me! My manager would have killed me! My bookkeeper would have killed me! They would have taken the money out of my share for the rest of my adult life. God am I so glad Herbie stepped in when he did and saved my ass. When I saw Herbie last year at the BR Cohn Fall Music Festival, he reminded me of that night. All these years later I’m still embarrassed by it. See what kind of a fool a guy can be? That’s what being a rock star did to me. Thankfully, nobody got hurt. Next time- TV’s go out flying the window of the Hyatt House!